There is no doubt that video is the go-to communication feature of the day and anyone working from home will have noticed that the main difficulty in distinguishing “work” from “home” is not time of day, but which particular platform is favored. As home working booms, there are winners and bigger winners among providers in the jostle for video conferencing dominance. Among the latter, Zoom has rapidly become a consumer favorite for friends and family catchups, including even HM Queen Elizabeth among its user base, and has at the same time gained lots of free publicity and huge traction for its enterprise play.
In enterprise, alongside Zoom, other suppliers are keen to help their customers with tools, services, and support, as they deploy home working at scale and at speed. There are many examples of altruism—with offers of free licenses for basic services as well as payment holidays, to lower the financial impact on cash-strapped businesses. It is hardly surprising that all the major vendors report that uptake has been staggeringly high. However, in the eventual post-Covid reset, the challenge of converting the long tail of free users to paying customers will take some considerable effort.
Global cloud providers Microsoft and Google, as well as others, such as Cisco, Zoom and Slack, can expect to benefit greatly from the homeworking boom, particularly as the focus moves away from video and towards the more integrated and feature-rich team collaboration solutions that enterprises need. But, within this, what is the opportunity for Communications Service Providers (CSPs) and where should they focus? How do they mitigate the risk of being squeezed out of what was once their core market by the global players?
The recent acquisition of the BlueJeans video platform by Verizon highlights an emerging CSP strategy. In itself, the acquisition of an established video player at a time when video is booming seems like a lucrative short-term move, but it is also looking like a smart long term strategy. Verizon plans to take a “build your own platform” approach and this is where CSPs need to focus. A key to CSP growth will be the need to create new value chains and maximize revenue potential through the customization of their platforms.
Verizon is an example of a CSP that is looking to invest in flexible platforms so that it can look at the demand side of the business and develop its own distinctive value proposition for specific customer segments and needs. Verizon is also looking to develop its One Talk service to become a platform and the acquisition of BlueJeans’ enterprise-grade meeting solution is evidence of Verizon’s strategic approach. CenturyLink is another example: it has chosen a technology platform that provides applications and portals that can be white-labeled to reflect CenturyLink’s own brand. Platform data and APIs can also be utilized, allowing CenturyLink to create its own intellectual property around new services (such as call recording), and business application integration.
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